West Coast Field Seminar (or, Running Around on Beaches Collecting Interesting Objects)

At 0315 in the morning on October 13th, we F12s piled into a bus in Mystic and began the first leg of what would be 10 full days of whirlwind travel. I feel so lucky to have been able to go on the West Coast Field Seminar with Williams-Mystic; traveling with 18 students and 7 faculty and staff made this trip one of the best weeks of my semester so far.

Our trip was truly a whirlwind of planned and spur-of-the-moment adventures: we began by exploring Monterey, then continued to Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and finally Bodega Bay. It is impossible to relate all of our experiences here—every day was completely filled, from the time we woke up to when we went to bed at night. Three parts of our West Coast Field Seminar were most distinctively Williams-Mystic and wonderful: our freedom to explore new places with unbridled enthusiasm, spending time with our professors and classmates while road-tripping, and learning from the people we met along the road.

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We were given the opportunity to explore many different places on our trip, amongst them beaches, redwood forests, the Monterey Aquarium, and a tugboat in the Port of Oakland. Not only did we walk around in the settings we read about in our classes, but we also touched, smelled, and listened to our surroundings. Holding a hunk of Bull Kelp, climbing inside the bridges of Natural Bridges State Park, and hugging a redwood tree are experiences so different from just seeing pictures or reading about these places. It was such an incredible resource to have our faculty and staff along on our adventures, providing helpful tidbits about different invasive species, birds, or boat constructions wherever we ended up.

I have never before gone on a road trip or eaten so many breakfasts with my professors. Sharing music and conversation in vans—not to mention ice-cream eating contests or kayaking adventures—helped me learn more about my teachers and classmates than I could ever know just from interactions in a classroom. I love knowing that I have watched otters, shopped for 7 for $1 avocadoes, and explored the wharf at San Francisco with the professors teaching my courses.

Everywhere we traveled, from the Monterey Aquarium to a whale watch to the Bodega Bay Marine Lab, we had conversations with people who truly understood these places. Learning from a tugboat captain or a local biologist gave a personal flavor to all the places we visited. Even reading from Cannery Row while actually on Cannery Row felt like a conversation with John Steinbeck.

During our flight back to the East Coast, many of my classmates wrote in their journals about our trip. It hardly seems possible that we fit as many adventures in 10 days as we did. I can look at pictures from the field seminar, hold the sand dollar and sponge-eaten clam shell I collected, and reread my journal entries, but I don’t need those aids to remember the wonder I felt exploring a new coast with my shipmates.

Fair Winds,

Anna

Author: williamsmystic

A one semester interdisciplinary ocean and coastal studies program integrating marine science, maritime history, environmental policy, and literature of the sea.

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